The first Valentine’s gift I received from Marc was a stuffed animal in a balloon. I wish I have a picture of it because it was so ridiculous! I still thought it was adorable though.  I really appreciated that he took the bus (he was 1 month shy of turning 16 so he couldn’t drive yet) to bring it over to my high school to surprise me.

Today, there’s so much pressure on getting the right Valentine’s day present and experience.  I’m not opposed to getting a fancy present (you’re reading this right Marc?) but it does not need to be extravagant.  If you need a little inspiration, don’t worry…we got you!

shift local vday guideMarc and I have been dating for over fifteen years so we’ve spent a lot of Valentine’s Days together.  I think what makes our dates special is by focusing more on the experience and we try to do things that interest us.  We’re excited to share this collection of date and gift ideas with you so you can Shift Local on Valentine’s Day.  Help your local economy and make this a Valentine’s Day memorable with a unique, one-of-a-kind date and gift. We hope our guide helps you make your Valentine’s Day one to remember.

shift local guide: romanticTake a romantic gondola ride around Lake Merritt


Marc and Mari on a Gondola Servizio date

Of course Gondola Servizio makes our list and why wouldn’t they?  You have gondoliers singing to you as you take in the beautiful view around the lake.  You even have an option to add cheese and wine or chocolate on your cruise… it doesn’t get more romantic than that!  As expected they are all booked up on Valentine’s Day but they are still taking reservations on February 13 and 15.  As an alternative, you can give your loved one a gift certificate for another day… after all, everyday should be Valentine’s Day!  Gondola Servizio is located at the historic boathouse on Lake Merritt – 1520 Lakeside Drive in Oakland.

 Romantic does not have to be Fancy


Date night at Croll’s Pizzeria

Fancy dinners are nice but if you’re looking for something a bit more casual, we recommend Croll’s Pizza, Alameda’s oldest pizzeria.  We love that they source local ingredients and that their pizza dough is made from scratch. They also serve local beer and wine.  It’s an intimate space so it’s a great place for a casual lunch or dinner date. Visit them at 705 Central Ave. in Alameda.

Another cute, intimate spot is Ensarro, a family-owned and operated Ethiopian restaurant in Oakland.  If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, we recommend trying the Ye Feseg Bayaynetu (Meat Sampler: Doro Wot, Ye Beg Wot and Doro Alicha) or the Ye Tsome Bayaynetu (Vegetarian Sampler: Messer Wot, Kik Alicha, Ata-kilt and Gommen).  You must pair it with the Ethiopian Tej, a traditional sweet honey wine. Check them out at 366 Grand Ave in Oakland.

Cupid’s Booquet

Get your BAE beautiful “boo(quets).”  Email to place your order. **delivery options available!**  Check him out on instagram #‎greeneryalajcap‬


shift local guide: art

 Give a gift from the HeART!

Get crafty! Nothing says I love you better than gifting something you made yourself.  If you’re not a big craft person but you are yearning for a pinterest-worthy DIY present, we recommend checking out Feed the Fish Co.’s blog for ideas.  Better yet, craft with her:

  • Valentine’s Craft Demo on Saturday February 7 at Sticky Art Lab located at 1682 University Ave. in Berkeley from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m
  • Love Handmade: A Valentine’s Day Pop-up on Sunday, February 8 at Concept 47 located at 4727 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Be My Valentine Pop-up on Saturday February 14 at Rickshaw Bagworks, 904 22nd Street in San Francisco from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is a sketch-from-life of Monet by American artist Mark Tobey, archivally framed and presented in mid-century line

If crafting is not your style, but you want something personal, another great gift  idea is getting a great photo of you and your significant other framed.  It can be a selfie or maybe a candid photo taken by your favorite professional photographer .  Another idea is getting his or her diploma framed.  I don’t think I’m alone in this but I just never got around to getting my college and law school diplomas framed (another hint Marc!).  We recommend Panorama Framing on 3350 Grand Ave. Oakland.

If your loved one is an artist, photographer or just loves art in general, we recommend checking out Bay Area Custom Prints.  They specialize in art-digital printing, custom-sized prints and gallery-wrapped canvas.  You can get your love’s art work or photograph printed. You can also browse through their collection of fine-art prints.  Marc contacted BACP to get a vintage map of Oakland printed on canvas and then gallery wrapped for us.  It made such a beautiful addition to our home.

Tour the Oakland Museum of California

It’s such a fun and affordable place to go on a date.  If you have not been to the OMCA, you’re missing out.  From their Friday Nights with Off the Grid to their various pop-ups and talks, you can’t go wrong with OMCA.

shift local guide: foodie

The love of food is definitely one thing Marc and I have in common.  All of our travels and even our date nights revolve around food.  Here are some of our favorite date and gift ideas for a foodie!

Take a Food Tour

We recommend Savor Oakland for an informative and delicious guided tour around Jack London or Chinatown. If they’re all booked up on Valentine’s Day, get a gift certificate for their next tour.

Explore the East Bay Indie Coffee Scene!

Get Shift Local’s Indie Coffee Passport for your Valentine (and yourself).  Discover coffee or tea from over 22 East Bay indie cafes until August 31, 2015.  22 dates are definitely better than 1!


Sweets for your Sweet!

I sure love sweets.  Here is a list of delicious desserts made in Oakland!

  • Sugar Knife – they don’t use any corn syrup, cornstarch, preservatives, industrial strength extracts, or chemically-based food dyes and they make it with booze.
  • Le Jarre – the best things come in small packages! I love their chocolate cheesecake!
  • Donut Savant – mmm….chocolate glazed cron’t.  Enough said.
  • Stroopie Gourmet – fresh, made-to-order Dutch stroopwafels.  My favorite is the figgy piggy (made with black mission fig jam, bacon, caramel drizzle & fresh cracked black pepper)

Have it all

Check out Little Shop Artisan Box for a collection of locally-made goodies.

shift local guide: fitness buff

We have to balance out all these yummy food with a little exercise right?  Here are some ideas:


Marc and Mari during City Beer Run SF 2014

shift local guide:  put a ring on it I just love my custom-made engagement ring by David Thorp of the Mercurius.  Okay, that’s a lot of pressure.  Your Valentine’s Day present doesn’t have to be an engagement ring (although that would be awesome), it can be any piece of jewelry or accessory.


David Thorp of the Mercurius did an amazing job bringing to life Marc’s vision for Mari’s engagement ring

Here are non-engagement ring present ideas:

  • Check out Crown Nine – “products are made by hand by real folks who are making a living on their art. The shop typically carries over 20 jewelry artists ranging in style, form, material, and technique. [They] also showcase the work of some of [their] favorite makers in fragrance, ceramics, home accessories, artifacts, and artwork.  Rare plants and a vintage bookshelf to boot.”
  • Visit Marion and Rose for American made fine goods.
  • Discover Rare Bird for a well edited mix of new & vintage, hand-crafted & locally-sourced jewelry, clothing, artwork & home decor Gifts for him, her, you, and the baby!
  • Nothing but the best for your #bosslady.  Enjoy 20% off your next purchase with ACMIST. Use promo code: CYB2015 at checkout. Expires 2.14.15.

We hope our guide inspires you to get a great Valentine’s Day present and go on a memorable date with your love.  If you have other suggestions or ideas, please let us know.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Marc and Mari

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